urban happiness

What role does geography play in our happiness?  Can we increase our happiness by changing our zip code?  The journalist Charles Montgomery studies how urban design affects human happiness, and he believes that we can manufacture joy through the urban landscape.   Specifically, he believes that we can “redesign our cities, our minds, and our own behaviors”…  “to build a city that is more convivial, more fair, more fun, and more happy.”

Montgomery offers a number of ways to make the city more fun, and my favorite suggestion is starting conversations in elevators.   He recognizes our inclination for personal space,  but he believes that the benefits of a good conversation outweigh the potential awkwardness : “Even a casual conversation with strangers has the potential to flood your system with feel-good hormones. Go ahead. Talk about the weather.”

I decided to encourage chatter by hanging conversation starters in elevators.  I’m not sure that anyone will answer the questions, per se, but perhaps they will chat about why someone hung silly paper all over the place.  Either way, mission accomplished. ImageImageImageImageImageImageSpeaking of urban happiness, I’m planning another rah rah rah project with my friends Kaitlyn and Sarah (TheDuck&TheOwl), and we want you to join us.  Are you up for it?


The plan is to spread happiness to the public heroes that make our lives better every single day.  Grateful for the librarians that keep the bookshelves stocked?  Thankful for the firemen that continuously defend the city?  Let’s show our appreciation by giving them goodie bags filled with sweet treats and thank you notes.

I plan to spread happiness in Minneapolis, and Kaitlyn and Sarah will bring smiles to Milwaukee.   We’re both planning to blog about the project on Monday, and we’d love to read about how other bloggers got involved.  If you choose to participate, send us a link (in the comment section of the post) so that everyone can read about your random act of happiness.  Ready, set, RAH!

mwf seeks bff

I get the heebie jeebies every time someone asks me to describe myself in a few sentences.  What information do they want, and wouldn’t it be better to just share a cup of coffee?  I mean, come over and I’ll bake you banana bread and tell you what I’m reading and what I’m painting and how my sister is my best friend.  But ask me to name five interesting facts and I freeze up—perhaps because the inquiry seems insincere.

For instance:
1. BBQ is my all-time favorite food
2. I write short stories while blasting rap music
3. Comedy clubs are my go-to spot on a Saturday night
4. I walk the lakes every.single.day at noon o’clock
5. My husband and my brother have the same sense of humor

Did you just learn anything honest or useful about me?  You still don’t know what makes me giggle or why I blush or what makes me angry – and aren’t those the things that matter?

I always want to ask people what they wish for when they blow out the candles on a birthday cake.  But would anyone give me an honest answer?  Surely it’s more revealing to spend an hour or two in conversation, right?
I suppose the only thing worse than being asked to describe yourself is being told to ‘select the box’ you identify with – you know what I mean, right?  Those pesky little boxes that characterize profiling sites like Match.com and Linkedin.

  • Speak a foreign language
  • Went to college
  • In a relationship
  • Owns a pet
  • Is talkative

I guess my problem with these box surveys is twofold: 1) the answers are rarely all-encompassing (I kind of speak Spanish and I’m currently in college and I don’t know if he’s my boyfriend-or-not and my dog just ran away and I’m only talkative around friends), and 2 ) they try to easily define people, when, in fact, we’re filled with nuances and dualities and so many more important things than we could tell you with a checkmark inside a box.